May 14th 2020

Expanded border force powers desperate distraction from government’s inhumane immigration detention

Human rights groups have slammed another attempt by the Government to avoid responsibility and scrutiny for their inhumane policy of mandatory, indefinite detention.

After failing to ensure the safety of refugees and people seeking asylum in overcrowded conditions during the coronavirus pandemic, the Government now wants to extend Border Forces powers, including the ability to confiscate mobile phones. 

These changes would rip away access to the families, loved ones and outside world for refugees and asylum seekers.

Border Force already has extensive absolute powers to conduct searches, refuse visits and confiscate items, these proposed new powers are abjectly harsh and unnecessary. 

ASRC’s Director Advocacy and Campaigns Jana Favero said:

“This is another example of the Government trying to distract from the most pressing issue - why are people seeking asylum and refugees still detained indefinitely?  We’ve seen this tactic from the Government before. 

“They should be looking into the conditions in detention, especially during the current pandemic instead of attempting to draw attention away from the situation facing people seeking asylum in detention. It’s a cheap, desperate trick.”

GetUp’s Human Rights Director Renaire Druery said:

“The government is desperate to avoid responsibility or accountability for its cruel and indefinite detention of refugees and asylum seekers, once again we’re seeing them resort to fearmongering. 

“Minister Dutton has fought time and time again to restrict or ban mobile phones from immigration detention because they shine a light on exactly what’s really going on.” 

RACS’ Centre Director & Principal Solicitor Sarah Dale said:

“Australian Immigration Detention remains a system with no transparency which allows for human rights abuses to take place. 

“There needs to be an investigation into why people are detained, the lengths of that detention and the harsh treatment they receive in these centres.”

Human Rights Law Centre's Legal Director David Burke said:

"The Morrison Government is using the cover of a public health crisis to hide what it is doing in immigration detention centres. Without people in detention having phones, we would not have witnessed the family from Biloela being dragged onto a plane. We would not have seen refugees in detention able to ask questions on Australian TV. 

“Hundreds of people would be even more cut off from their legal representatives, their families and their loved ones. Abuse thrives behind closed doors. Parliament needs to reject this attack on transparency."